Little Rock lawmakers file bill that could return local control to LRSD

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Six Democratic state lawmakers, all from Little Rock, filed a bill Wednesday that would create a path for the return of local control to the Little Rock School District.

State Senators Will Bond, Linda Chesterfield, and Joyce Elliott, and State Representatives Charles Blake, Andrew Collins, and Tippi McCullough all co-sponsor Senate Bill 553. If passed, it would create new criteria for the return of local control to a public school district being run by the State Board of Education.

Among the potential qualifying options, a district would be returned to local control if:

  • it demonstrates “substantial improvement” of the issues that led to a state takeover
  • the State Board of Education is satisfied the district has adopted a plan to correct the issues that led to the takeover
  • all schools classified as Level 5 (judged to need “intensive support”) within a state-run district make enough progress to remove that classification
  • the number of Level 5 schools within a state-run district increases after the takeover

The bill would also tweak existing law regarding what the state does after five years of controlling a public school district. Right now, the law says the Department of Education “shall” annex, consolidate or reconstitute a district that hasn’t met criteria for exiting Level 5 of the school distress rating. The bill would change that to say the state “may” take those measures, rather than it “shall” take them.

The Arkansas Department of Education took over control of the Little Rock School District on January 28, 2015. Several local politicians, including the lawmakers who filed the bill and Little Rock mayor Frank Scott, Jr. have repeatedly called for the state to return LRSD to local control.

Earlier this year, the state listed the criteria that would allow LRSD to return to local control in 2020. They include demonstrable improvement in ACT Aspire test scores at the eight LRSD schools judged to be failing.

Those eight F-rated schools are: J.A. Fair, Hall, and McClellan High Schools; Cloverdale Middle School; Bale, Romine, Stephens, and Washington Elementary Schools.

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